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Chavez confidante arrested

July 25, 2014

A former high-ranking Venezuelan official under late President Hugo Chavez has been arrested on the Caribbean island of Aruba. Hugo Carvajal is accused of ties to drug trafficking by the United States.

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Image: picture-alliance/Charles Bowman/Robert Harding

Hugo Carvajal, a retired general who served as military intelligence chief under late Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez from 2004-2011, was arrested at the request of US prosecutors in Aruba, which forms part of the Netherlands.

He is expected to appear in a court in Aruba on Friday. The US wants to prosecute him over alleged drug crimes and helping Colombia's Marxist FARC guerrillas.

In 2008, the US Treasury Department accused Carvajal of arming the FARC rebels, protecting the drug shipments the group sent through Venezuela, giving them official government identity papers and allowing them to maintain a stronghold along the Venezuelan-Colombian border. He was one of a number of high-ranking Venezuelan military officials blacklisted by the US at the time.

Venezuela has condemned the arrest, calling it a "grave violation" of international law. It said that Carvajal was appointed Venezuela's consul general to Aruba in January, but that Dutch authorities had rejected his claim to diplomatic immunity.

"Venezuela emphatically rejects the illegal and arbitrary detention of a Venezuelan diplomatic official bearing a passport that accredits him as such," the foreign ministry said in a statement.

Officials in Aruba said there was confusion about whether Carvajal held immunity because of his diplomatic passport. However, his detention went ahead anyway because he had yet to receive his accreditation.

"Immunity is always linked to a function," prosecutors' spokeswoman Ann Angela told news agency AP.

"And he has does not have any function here in Aruba. He is not the consul general; therefore he has no immunity."

Angela said US prosecutors had 60 days to formalize their extradition request.

jr/jm (AP, Reuters, AFP)